Like many students at the end of their college career, Monte Hickman was in search of a good career opportunity. Monte grew up on the outskirts of Orange City, IA on an acreage, and attended South Dakota State University for a major in Animal Science with a production emphasis. Monte discovered Pipestone System at a career fair on campus and applied for their Manager in Training program.
Monte admits that his first couple days working at a sow farm were a little shocking. “Coming into this company I thought I would be working in a finisher since that is the only thing that I had ever been exposed to growing up.” And as Monte shortly found out, running a sow farm is a whole other ball game. A sow farm can sort of be compared to a NICU. There are a lot of safety precautions to make sure diseases are not brought in, and a lot of extra care is given to the baby pigs and their mothers. The sow farms also have a gestation barn, which is where the pigs are bred. “Upon arriving to my first sow farm I was scared beyond belief. After the initial shock wore off, it was time to go to work and it has played out really well for me. I started as a Manger in Training (MIT) right out of college at Nokomis. Being a Manager in Training, I was on the fast track to management which couldn’t have been truer,” stated Monte.
Three and a half years later, Monte can’t believe where his decision to join Pipestone System has taken him. “Within the first year I had been in six different barns. I was willing to do anything and everything needed to succeed in this company. I had to work hard and spent some late days at the barn. At the end of the day, it has paid off tenfold and I can’t believe how far it has taken me.”
Monte Hickman is one of many managers that started in the Manager in Training program at Pipestone System and worked their way up the ladder. Three months after starting, he was promoted to a gestation lead, and after one year was managing his own barn with multiple employees under his supervision. He also gets the opportunity to travel to local career fairs in hopes to give current students the same opportunity he was given at Pipestone. Monte is now working towards a Production Supervisor role, where he would supervise multiple barn managers in the position he is currently in.
Monte’s favorite part of his job is watching people grow. “Not everyone is going to run the company or manage or supervise, but it is a lot of fun developing employees and watching them succeed and grow as individuals.” Monte takes pride in his ability to train employees, especially in gestation. He has worked with a number of employees, vet students, and interns, and has been able to train them to run a successful gestation barn.
Monte admits that it can be difficult working in an industry that the public knows so little about, but at the same time, it is very rewarding and exciting. “I get to share my experience with people and tell them how what I do impacts their everyday life.” Not everyone can say they help feed the world everyday!